Biden Era Full of Challenges

For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

– Amanda Gorman

Joe Biden showed incredibly great timing running for president, a caring, devoted avuncular presence that’s just what’s needed following a horror show masquerading as leadership that led America down a road bursting with buried improvised explosive devices.

We were very, very fortunate to come through a dark tunnel with nobody to call for help. Who is there to help but America? One could cry. I did, watching the sparkling inauguration, a welcome relief, a shining spectacle on a hill.

Biden, fulfilling campaign pledges to fix broken promises, launched his presidency like a rocket, reportedly signing about 30 executive orders in his first 48 hours. Fully 14 of them corrected Donald Trump’s right-wing corrosive actions and the rest dealt with the pandemic and the struggling economy.

In his first legislative act, the new president fresh from an inauguration that turned the lights back on in a darkening dystopian, despairing country, asked Congress for $1.9 trillion to ease the pain of a yearlong pandemic that has shattered the lives of millions of Americans pleading for help.

More than 416,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, another 24 million infected with it. The death toll is more Americans lost than died in World War II – 291,557. No Gold Star mothers this time.

Besides dealing with the pandemic, the challenges Biden faces rival those of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he took office in 1933; he had to first confront the Great Depression. An astonishing 25 percent of Americans were jobless at one point.

“So, first off all,” FDR said in his inaugural address, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Those words may well apply to what the country is going through 88 years later because of the pandemic, the unnaturally high unemployment, the staggering businesses.

Biden has other major challenges facing him, as he outlined during his campaign: the threat of an economic collapse, the warming planet and confronting climate change and racial injustice.

He signed an executive order Monday reversing Trump’s purely mean decision by tweet in 2017 to ban transgender people from the military, another dark stain by the former president that blotted the country’s advancing embrace of enlightenment.

Republicans, dueling with Democrats over how to play by new rules in a Senate chamber divided 50-50, didn’t wait long to balk at Biden’s virus relief bill because of its financial cost after just having spent $900 billion on dealing with the effects of the rampant disease.

One of the provisions in Biden’s proposed stimulus package is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour among workers for federal contractors, also a cause of Republican dissent. The conservative GOP has returned to its routine stance against deficit spending whenever a Democrat is in the White House.

No one heard Republican complaints about the deficit caused by theirs and Trump’s huge tax cut for the wealthy and corporations.

I suggest deleting the proposed wage hike from the legislation to give the relief bill clearer sailing and to save the jump from an incredibly low $7.25 an hour for another try later. A corrective presidency to help the American people can’t be built in a day.

Working 40 hours a week at $15 an hour translates to a $600 weekly salary, or $31,200 yearly. That’s a living wage?

Biden has at least two years, hopefully more, to try to get as much of his legislative agenda through Congress as he can before the 2022 election might overwhelm his trifecta – the White House, the House and the Senate.

But if he can give people the help they need, especially those who earn low incomes and those in the disappearing middle class, they may flock to the Democrats the way they surged in turnout to vote for Biden and the two new Democratic Georgia senators.

The idea is to pay attention to people’s needs.

For Trump, who faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate beginning the week of Feb. 8, seems to be plotting his future from his opulent Palm Beach retreat.

Republicans increasingly are against a trial, signaling Trump again won’t be convicted. Where is their conscience in refusing to hold the former president accountable on the impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” in connection with urging the attack on the Capitol that killed five people?

An American president seeking to bulldoze democracy to replant himself in the White House illegally. How is that not a crime?

If the Senate won’t convict, Trump will be free to run for federal office again.

Why can’t Republicans put country before party? What are they afraid of? Being primaried by allies of Trump dictating from his Berchtesgaden-like lair, albeit on a beachfront, not a mountain?

To give an idea what we endured, Trump told 30,573 lies or made misleading claims during his four-year tenure, nearly half of them in the past year, according to The Washington Post. A true disciple of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, a champion of the Big Lie.

Yes, we the people were lucky. This time.


Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.